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Getting Technique-cal

Pencils to pixels

Over the past few months, I’ve been plotting and planning a video tutorial series, and getting that rolling. Wanting to make it as in-depth and as close to real-time as possible, it’s become a monster indeed.

The plan has been simple: Show the workflow, the art, the technique an all of the warts and whatnots that go into creating a rendering or illustration the “Problem Child Kustoms Way.” Suffice to say, it’s been a ton of work thus far, but very rewarding and eye-opening for me, both from a technical standpoint and as an artist. I’ve realized many key things about my work, as well as just how often I let a few f-bombs fly. Crazy how that can go.

how to render in adobe illustrator

I thought that it might be fun to show a few in-the-moment screen grabs from a couple of pieces here, as they represent a lot of what goes into these works. There’s a ton of hidden stuff and work involved in making vector art look like, well, not vector art. Not that the purpose of my technique or approach begins and ends with that in any respect… I enjoy the fact that I can use a program like Adobe Illustrator to continue creating, even after my hands have given out as they have. It’s a mater of holding on to the style I had developed before going digital, and the incredible tools afforded by the software to push it that next step. A melding of man, will and machine… Funny how those can come together so organically, while often being thought of as being so different.

Some pieces like this big rig tend to get very involved. While working on a segment highlighting graphics and paint, this particular illustration spent a ton of time under the microscope, not only for its very involved process, but because I had to make vector paths appear more like candy paint, with all sorts of transparent and translucent qualities, reflecting and refracting light. Fun times…

speedco-csm

…and how it all comes together:

speedco-csm2

I had taken some time as well to show how to create realistic reflections using only the pen tool in Illustrator, which offers a lot of control when altering reality just a bit:

Reflections in Illustrator

And, of course, rendering from paper and pencil all the way through to digital:

tucci-coffemakerL

…covering glass, paint, shading and more using only the pen tool in Illustrator (no gradient meshes, brushes or presets… Just hands-on dirty work).

vector rendering

Look for more soon, and be sure to check out my website at www.problemchildkustoms.com for more tutorials and sneak peeks. Thanks for looking in, and feel free to hit me with any questions, comments, suggestions…

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Cropping With Ockham’s Razor

To be remembered one day is an unspoken desire of most people. It’s one of those little motivating factors that drive us to chase a dream of creating things, be it art or music or prose. After all, why throw it at the wall if you don’t want it to stick, or at least leave a mark, right? And if you couldn’t care less about that as an artist, you can rest assured that at least SOMEONE out there does, judging from the number of magazines and blogs and television shows that exist solely to document these works.
 
A late-night thinking binge took me down the rabbit hole, considering that today’s artists will be remembered or even rediscovered in quite a different fashion from those who came before. What’s odd is that instead of learning about me in libraries or museums, someone will find my life’s work via some internet search, scattered among loosely-related images and links chosen by some algorithm. A life I stumbled into, stumbled upon via a search routine designed to guide some randomly-chosen whim, and forgotten the instant that their search leads them down another rabbit hole.
 
It’s all very fleeting in nature, and I’m only just discovering the beauty in that with reference to reinventing one’s self; although there exists the possibility of such digital cataloging to create a whole other picture of oneself that stands in stark contrast to the that which we’d like to be remembered.
 
That said, I find it logical to believe the most successful artists of the future will ply their craft not so much in creating images, but managing their image. Live by the blade of the internet or die by underestimating its sharpness. Funny how that all works out.

It’s Nothing Without the Paper

An interesting thought I’ve been pondering in the background for quite some time:
 
I’m sick and tired of hearing people bash digital artwork and conceptual work as being something less than a sketch on paper. Absolutely done with it. And I’m talking about the work involving creating that which doesn’t exist, not hacking two photos you found on Google together to put another pony car on a set of off-the-shelf rims. I’m talking pure conceptual work here.
 
Let’s consider a pencil and marker sketch versus one created on a tablet using pixels, or even a photograph: It’s not as though a photograph is providing you with a small, actual landscape or an 8×10-inch person to tote around; nor does the marker rendering, or even the digital sketch/painting. All are artistic REPRESENTATIONS of something, and require a certain set of skills to create with any success. Don’t get me wrong, there is a HUGE gap between the good and the terrible, and that comes down to knowing the tools (doubly-so for a digital artist seeking to emulate a traditional tool or media, as that artist needs to have experience in physical AND digital media) and using them as a craftsman should. There is good art in any medium, be it sculpture or painting or drawing or photography or motion pictures and more. Ability and drive and vision aren’t limited to one tool, and if you think that they are, then you are severely limiting your outlook.
 
The digital stuff suffers because it’s created using a bunch of ones and zeros and can be wiped from existence with a key stroke, but it has the ability to exist everywhere. You can scan an analog piece and share in that instant, global sharing, much as you can with a digital photograph… And you can lose the original by spilling coffee on it as well.
 
Oddly enough, each is nothing without the paper it’s presented upon. So do tell me again where digital art is some lesser form because doesn’t exist until it’s on paper. And good luck sharing that original analog piece on social media without scanning it into bytes of data. Tell me how digital “ruins” the art. Go right on ahead.

Garage Band Performance Art

I know… Most cover bands opt for the hits; the better-known songs, and sprinkle a set with a few key B-sides. What makes this trio what they are is having three members.

Wait, no… That’s not where I was going.

These guys have managed to capture the decline of Guns N’Roses… The years of infighting, manic-depressive behavior, and drug addled ruin, and packaged it in one take.
Seeing it this way elevates it from mere “learning curve” stature, and boost it to something more, transcending the headache it inspires.

It’s not a jam session.

It is PURE performance art.

…at least through the eyes of a modern art critic, I’d imagine. Welcome to the Age of Entitlement. Grab a trophy on your way out.

It’s Under There

Eagerly awaiting my next rejection letter from the good folks at Taschen regarding the sample from my latest art book idea.

It’s a coffee table photography book which explores the subgenre of “found art,” with special emphasis the on the oft-overlooked importance of Ochre and Burnt Umber pigment. While many could argue that a lot has been written on the subject of these colors with regard to underpainting, my magnum opus spins a unique yarn as a photographic exploration of underwear which really holds its own from front to back.

The Scratch-N-Sniff variation holds a lot of potential, though. Using today’s technology, one could really capture the essence.

Be the next Problem Child

free car art to color

We’ve thrown a few free line art files up on the website for you to grab and spend some quality time with your kids this Inktober (while I neglect mine in favor of finishing a ton of last-minute SEMA Show afterthought nonsense for clients who lack the “planning” and “scheduling” genes).

Nearly two fists full of car art, ranging from street rods to kustom cars and slammed trucks, all ready to be downloaded, printed and attacked with pencils, crayons, markers or airbrush (or even by spitting ink or food coloring at them, should you be so crafty and weird – or brave, depending upon the pigments you select). Granted, these are for your fun and entertainment only, so we hope that you’ll use them to inspire the kids (or even yourself, should you wish) to get creating.

bubbletop line art


Our hope is that you’ll share these with your kids, and make some memories as Fall settles in… Or should you have forgotten the joy of putting some color down on a car drawing, that you’ll re-discover that buzz, and perhaps even bust out the pencils and get sketching some of your own…

car coloring book page

Keep in mind that these are presented in good faith, and not to be used in any other way except as stated. If you’d like a one-off piece of art, give me a shout, and we can arrange for that. After all, this is how I feed my kids, and buy them neat things like shoes and crayons to color line art with.

A big shout to our friends over at Welder Series for getting this ball rolling with us (DW ships a selection of coloring pages with each order!), and for their support of this whole mess over the years.  You know we love you guys. And not simply because you live in the land of Hockey, Tim Horton’s and poutine.

That said, we hope you enjoy the art and the memories made, and check back often as we’ll add more variety as time allows! Oh, you can grab these things here, BTW: http://bit.ly/color-these

Bonus Script Idea #9,017,244,592

Considering that in modern-day Hollywood, virtually everything can benefit from a remake, I’m finding time to finish a script idea that could go one of two ways:

1. ZAPRUDER! becomes a musical comedy, set in a just-off-Broadway theme, but as told from an independent filmmaker who is attempting to make the stage production of a play about another independent filmmaker who happens to capture an historic event on camera (only to later record over most of it with Gong Show reruns) into a feature film, but is doing so in guerrilla style, so as to avoid paying any of the actors, using the ruse of filming a “making of the documentary about the making of the play.” It’s all very Inception meets the Twilight Zone, but with the tone of an early episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Assuming that the show were produced in the universe of A Clockwork Orange.

2. Zapruder: Rise of the Third Gunman becomes a 3-hour, single tracking shot action epic with Michael Bay-style explosions, telling the story of the Kennedy assassination… I’m leaning toward this, as the sheer joy of having Bruce Willis wander off-set in the final moments of the perfect shot leaves me tingling with anxiety.

Failing those, we could simply head back to the toilet and drop back into a parody:

inglorious bathrooms

It Will Be Simply Divine

No matter what effects or gimmicks or star-studded cast you throw at a movie… No matter the provenance of the script or the marketing power of the franchise, it will always pale in my eyes to John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. And that’s because no dogfight between the Millennium Falcon and seventeen TIE Fighters, nor the sinking of the Titanic or even the seamless CGI raising from the dead of James Cagney and Marilyn Monroe for an even more graphic remake of that scene on the stairs in A History of Violence can compare to the mind-etching, life-altering, stomach-churning experience of watching a three-hundred pound drag queen eat a dog turd. If art is meant to elicit a response that changes you, then yes, this trumps a midget trying to steal a ring from an animated dragon.

My thinking is that we get Bruce Jenner to bulk up, and remake that movie. I have another casting suggestion but she has a tight vacation schedule and we don’t have a lot of room in the budget for a treadmill.

Up next: We’ll cast my mash-up homage to Dirty Dancing and Scanners.

Nobody puts Revok in the corner.

Posting is Not Permission

Food for thought, should you be a douchebag Googling for artwork to steal and utilize on your car show poster, cruise night flyer, tattoo, shop logo or tees, Trapper Keeper, whatever:

The internet and subsequent search engines are just that… A system that is designed to seek information utilizing an algorithm by which to display said found information in a discernible manner via internet server-based software. That’s pretty much it. It helps you to LOOK for things.

What it IS NOT is a fucking catalog of FREE ARTWORK for you to pick and choose from for your own low-rent ass to use as you please. Otherwise, it would have a name like “Internet Catalog of Free Art for You to Pilfer, You Soul-less Cocksucker.” Simply because it’s online does not imply CONSENT FOR USE. We artists post work to hopefully show our skills and draw an audience… and thus business, allowing us to earn a living through our chosen media. With the digital age, posting online is a necessary evil. We don’t post it to provide some bottomless well of nice things for you to take. That’s no different than walking out of a store without paying for the chair you’re carrying, and proclaiming that you “found it” on the sales floor. And leaving the artist’s name on the artwork does not compensate for your theft, or suddenly grant you with some superpowers of kindness and elevate you to hero status. You’re a fucking thief and a low-life. I know it sounds weird, but I’d bet that not one artist has a mortgage company that accepts “But look, they used my name here!” as payment. Come to think of it, it works quite the opposite.

Thus, to my artist friends, I humbly suggest the following:

Each time we find a work of a fellow artist being used without permission, we attempt to contact the offending party and get that artist paid. Failing this, we utilize family photos of said offending party as raw material for a Photoshop-based “Porn-Off”, wherein we recreate filthy scenes of debauchery and utter inhumanity, starring their loved ones. We can then gather and vote for the best use, or most original back-story. If confronted, we stand by the claim that we “found those pics online”, and felt it only fair, as we included as much information about that person as we could at the bottom of each image we create.

Posting is not permission.

Marker Time!

sci-fi pinup marker sketch

It has been a while since I posted anything here to really do with the actual drawing of cars… I mean, shit, that is the name of this whole mess, after all. I suppose that I could throw a few doodles into the mix now and then, right?

Of course.

Going through some of the older sketchbooks and whatnot, I’ve compiled a little peek behind the scenes; the stuff that goes on before the vector and digital voodoo-type sorcery. Let’s start with this piece:

cartoon car sketch

I had wanted to do a cartoon-y piece for a while, and the opportunity presented itself back in ’08-ish, so I went at it with some gusto, and created the ultimate swap meet find moment, with this happy gent scraping his way home with a brutal ’55 Chevy in tow. From markers to the scanned and re-drawn, vector art, you can see the importance of staying as true as possible to the original work. All pen tool… no brushes, auto-trace, meshes or other preset nonsense. It’s all about retaining the original line quality, and saving that hand-drawn looseness, but gaining all of the good things that a vector piece can supply!

digital cartoon drawing

I do a lot of t-shirt work, and to be honest, I enjoy it a lot more than the hot rod work, especially as things progress with my neuromuscular condition (more on that soon), and it really gives me a chance to play around in my imagination. There are so many things you can get away with, stretching reality on a graphic, versus having to make things work on the street!

This piece was a fun one in so many ways:

sci-fi pinup marker sketch

My pal Jon had wanted a cool tee for his shop. He knew he wanted a pinup girl with a retro feel, but wanted to include two of the more well-known cars they’ve painted… However, those cars are decidedly modern Pro-Touring style rides, so the challenge was on to make these elements work. I decided that I’d use the opportunity to include elements from some of my favorite science fiction spacecraft, lending a little bit of a retro/space feel. And what space-age pinup would be complete without a glass dome helmet and a ray gun-turned-paint gun? Naturally. Sketch to color-blocking in marker took what seemed like forever as my hands weren’t cooperating too well at the time, but I had managed to bust this out over a couple of days (from sketch to final vector work):

vectior tshirt pinup

Speaking of tees and posters, here’s a little one from 2012:

poster sketch

This is a peek at that weird moment where the sketch meets the digital work. For me, this is a bittersweet moment at times, knowing that some elements in the original design will probably change, be it to make things more print-friendly, of due to a client’s request… And some of the really neat little bleeds and whatnot in the marker stage will be lost forever to the super-smoothness of a vector curve. I pay a TON of attention at this stage to keep as much of that hand-hewn character and personality in there!

The completed vector art:

poster design

Let’s peek at the rendering side of things with a little ’50 Chevy pickup piece. Starting with a pencil sketch (you can find the whole process on this particular illustration as part of a quick tutorial, if you’d like), I refine it to a point where I feel confident that I have enough information to move into the digital side. This one got a bit carried away, as I was putting that how-to together, and thought I’d have an expanded version for the upcoming book:

truck rendering sketch

Mostly pencils with just a touch of gray marker making its way in, just to nail down the shading.

Once it’s all vector drawn (again, I’m a strictly pen tool kinda guy on these personal pieces, as it’s more about getting m,y own hand and style into the art, versus banging out a piece to feed the kids. After a bunch of hours and hundreds of layers and detailing, we get this:

chevy tuck rendering

One last piece for this installment, if you’ll indulge me:
truck pencil sketch

Sketching on-site is always fun, and this piece was the highlight of a fun weekend, hanging in Burbank. While the plan was to go full digital with this one, I decided that it just had too much going on to lose the feel, and decided that markers just fit the bill, and, well…

truck marker rendering

…it worked out pretty well! Experimenting sometimes with a technique or style that’s outside of your everyday working methods can often bring exciting results! In this case, I had really intended to keep it looser, and get that cool plein air feel… but in the end, I forced a bit of my tighter rendering style in there. Maybe next time!

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